HOW THE SKIN CHANGES WITH AGE
As we grow older the body will experience many physical changes, but the most telling signs of ageing are shown on the skin. Wrinkling and sagging of the skin, and whitening or greying of the hair, are factors we most commonly associate with ageing.
So how does ageing effect the skin? With aging, the outer skin layer - the epidermis - thins, even though the number of cell layers remains unchanged. The number of cells containing pigment decrease, these cells are called melanocytes. The remaining melanocytes increase in size causing changes in pigment, you may know these as sun spots or age spots. Ageing skin looks thinner and pale. The most noticeable and undesirable change is in the connective tissue, the skins elasticity and strength is reduced. This is known as elastosis and creates the appearances of what are commonly known as 'wrinkles'.
Time isn’t the only factor in the ageing process. UV rays created by the sun are one of the biggest causes of premature ageing. We all pick up a bottle of sun protection and see the words UV protection but how many of us know what this actually means. UV stands for Ultra Violet light and it is categorised into three types.
UVA (ageing)- these rays penetrate deep into the skin and is the main cause of premature ageing and skin cancer. People who use sunbeds on a regular basis are at higher risk as they can emit 2-5 times more UVA than the sun
UVB (burning) - UVB is stronger than UVA. It affects the outer layer of the skin causing sun burn that leads to premature ageing and skin cancer. Although the sun has many benefits and gives us vitamin D - essential for bone health - too much sun can cause:
- discoloured areas of the skin
- yellowing discoloration of the skin, red veins, freckles
- the destruction of collagen in the skin
- Too much sun exposure can cause the skin to take on a leathery appearance
Along with the sagging skin, white hair and wrinkles there are some unhealthy signs of ageing that need to be monitored.
- Seborrheic keratosis – a type of benign skin tumor that looks like a brown wart.
- Solar keratoses – spots of skin that are inflamed, scaly and dry. Common sites include the bridge of the nose, cheeks, upper lip and backs of the hands. Skin cancer (squamous cell) can develop in these areas, so examination by a doctor is recommended.
- Bowen’s disease – a type of slow-growing and scaly skin patch thought to be caused by the sun.
Again many of these can be avoided, or minimised by protecting ourselves from the sun.
Through research it seems that the most recommended way to delay the signs of ageing is to protect our skin against the sun, don’t smoke and eat a healthy well balanced diet. In this age conscious world it’s easy to lose touch with reality and believe ageing is bad. There is so much to celebrate with age. Age comes with wisdom, experience and beauty.
© Jazmin Starr 2019
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